Having a personal project to work on is a great discipline for every photographer, professional or amateur. We all get stuck at times on what to photograph and can fall into ruts where our creative drive struggles to get any traction. Being committed to a personal photography project will help us develop our vision, creativity, and technical skills.
Breaking out of the biggest creative block – what do I want to photograph?
Choosing a theme, specific subject, location, … whatever you are really interested in and passionate about, to build a photography project around, will free you from that nagging question. You will no longer have the biggest creative dilemma every time you pick your camera up because you will already be focused on your project.
It’s best to commit to choosing a subject you are passionate about and can really relate to. Sometimes this can be difficult for many reasons, but don’t be deterred by the challenge as we often produce our best creative work in the face of a challenge.
If you’re not sure what you want to photograph for your project start making a list of possible subjects and even note down pros and cons that come to mind. Give yourself some time to grow the list and make your notes and then start photographing two or three of the ideas. Work on them each for a short time and you might find you’re enjoying shooting one of them more than the others. You might also find you have two or three projects you are loving working on!
Experience seeing your own creative development
Focusing on and being committed to a photography project will allow you to see your creativity and technical skills development. As you build up a body of work your creative strengths and weaknesses will become more evident. Taking advantage of this will require a healthy attitude because the mistakes you make will stand out more when the photos are side by side with your better images.
Remaining positive is essential to our creative development. As we work on our projects and begin to cull our best photos to compile a body of work we are pleased with, it’s important to carefully consider the photos we are not satisfied with. Learning to analyze why we’re not satisfied and what is ‘wrong’ with those photos can motivate us to try again and improve.
Working on a project affords us the opportunity to return and rephotograph the images we have not been happy with. Approaching our mistakes as opportunities to learn and develop our technique will result in the development of our personal style more than just about anything else.
Possessing a portfolio
I believe every photographer needs a portfolio of their best images. Even if it’s only two or three photos if you are just starting out in your photography journey. Having a folder on your computer, an account on 500px or Flickr or an album of photos on your blog is a valuable resource, even if you never share it with anyone else, (but I do encourage you to share your photography.) Purposefully creating somewhere you collect your best photographs can serve as an inspiration to you, (and others,) and a valuable historic record.
You never know when someone will approach you full of praise for a photo you have made and asking to see more. If you are prepared with a collection of your best photographs to show them you never know the opportunities that can arise. If your photos remain un-curated, scattered across folders on your computer’s hard drives the potential to miss out is huge.
One current personal project
One of my current personal photography projects is the tricycle taxis here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These machines and the men who ride them are a fading part of northern Thailand’s culture. As the city modernizes, with more and more motor vehicles on the roads every year, this traditional form of public transport is becoming lost. I am hopeful the images I am creating of them will serve more than to enhance my portfolio as I am also providing them to the non-profit Chiang Mai On Three Wheels website.